“Rhetoric and Composition” Refelction

I found Chapter 2, “Rhetoric and Composition”, of Janice Lauer’s book English Studies to be quite fascinating. In the current day and age, the connection between rhetoric and the study of English literature are very closely tied, so it amazes me that this bond was formed only a few decades ago. As an English teacher, I find the connection between rhetoric and English studies to be vital both in developing critical thinking skills necessary for life as well as well as analyzing literature at a more critical level. As Lauer points out, studying English without rhetoric leaves out the many external and internal factors that influence one’s writing such as culture and investigating the author’s purpose. After all, no work of literature is ever conceived in a vacuum. Similarly, English studies, while considered a singular discipline, is inseparable from almost every other subject. Notably, philosophy, sociology, history, and so on add many layers to what would otherwise be a basic study of grammatical rules.

On the college level rhetoric and composition have seemingly exploded in popularity as Lauer points out, with countless courses focusing on developing each student’s voice and tactics in regard to forming effective arguments. However, an emphasis on rhetoric and composition in English classes has expanded beyond merely the bounds of higher education. In my personal experience, modern middle and high school ELA courses have a far greater focus on critical thinking, determining the author’s purpose and audience, inclusion of multiple disciplines, inclusivity in regard to studying works from a variety of cultures, and–overall–allowing each writer to express his/her personal opinions and voice than they did when I was a middle and high school student myself. This is an excellent step forward and yet I do fear that it presents a few minor problems that must be dealt with. Firstly, we should be cautious not to place too great an emphasis on these higher levels of thought before students are ready. It is great for students to be encouraged to think critically at a young age, but placing too much emphasis on this may prove to do the opposite. Secondly, students must learn the basics, however monotonous they may be, before they can tackle higher concepts. On this front, I disagree with Lauer who suggests that direct grammar instruction should be eliminated and replaced by individualized instruction. While this is a great idea, I find it be far-fetched given that teachers do not have adequate time and resources to allow for such instruction to be effective. Ultimately, students must learn the rules before they can attempt breaking them, and the simplest way to do so is with direct grammar instruction at a young age. Once this is achieved, than students can begin tackling the higher concepts of rhetoric and composition (which they will, no doubt, already have some familiarity with given their exposure to so many forms of media).

Lauer finishes Chapter 2 by explaining rhetoric’s current place in education and where it is likely to head in the future. I agree whole heartedly that this area of study will continue to expand and grow in popularity, especially in the current age of information where the average person has a much broader perspective on the world than they did only a decade ago. As time progresses, studies related to culture, gender, reader-response, etc. will remain relevant and seep out of the realms of higher education and into high school classrooms. These approaches will hopefully allow for new ideas to be shared at a greater rate and encourage students to develop a broader perspective on the world and its inhabitants.

Rhetoric and Composition Notes

Rhetoric and Composition is a must read for those who seek an introduction into the field. Janice M. Lauer breaks down the dichotomy of the various forms of writing. What I found interesting was the many different ways to write and how to study writing. The conception of writing is portrayed as mediating complex dynamics, which makes sense when we see how there are different studies for writing alone.

By that I mean that writing in itself is not one field of study, but rather it is divided and implemented into various distinct fields of study. English Writing studies is one writing program, but Literature is another, as well as rhetoric & composition, communication and literacy, media literacy, journalism, and professional writing.

An interesting part of the text was the list of shared features within the writing field by Louise Wetherbee Phelps. I think this part of the text puts the important parts of Rhetoric and Composition into perspective. It helps to give readers a better understanding of the emerging discipline that is Rhetoric and Composition.

“Rhetoric & Composition” by Janice Lauer

Honestly, just from the title I thought this was going to be a difficult read. But my assumptions were wrong. Overall, it was a very insightful chapter. I enjoyed jumping through time periods where rhetoric and composition were evolving and being comprehended. I appreciated what Janice Lauer mentioned on Page 3 of Chapter 2 ,“ In most cases, if students decide to major or even to do graduate work in English, they assume they will be studying literature. What these students often do not realize is that “English” also encompasses the discipline of rhetoric and composition”. Whenever I tell anyone that I am studying English, they always assume I am going to be a High School teacher who just reads books to students everyday. English is such a broad subject, where people emerge and become scholars, authors, and enlighten other curious scholars. It is beyond belief considering we’re in the 21st century where people have PHDs in this subject. Janice Lauer touched on the emergence of writing, the composing process, teaching of writing, different styles of writing, and even disagreements when it comes to the topic of rhetoric and composition. Many inventions such as journaling encouraged students to explore connections within themselves to make their writing more originative and authentic. 

As an Asian American student, born in Bangladesh, I had the opportunity to be raised in the United States at such a young age I was not put into ESL classes. However, many of my peers lost out on opportunities because of the diversity aspect of their education. Lauer had cited that scholars have made it more accessible for ESL students to be taught rhetoric and composition based on their culture. I highly support this approach, as it involves the students’ culture, hence comfortability in understanding writing language and composition. Since we’re on this topic of students, I was scrolling through TikTok this weekend, and I am on the side of Teacher Tok. Multiple educators have been bringing awareness to the fact many students are struggling to read basic words. A 7th grade teacher mentioned that his student could not spell “Window”. He was appalled at the lack of students knowing how to formulate sentences at a 7th grade level. This brings me to the topic of Foundationalism. I read that collaboration and making students evaluate their peers’ work makes their knowledge of rhetoric and composition stronger. Perhaps teachers can start making groups for students who are struggling to read and compose so they know that they are not alone in this struggle. Maybe they can even jump off of each others ideas when coming up with stronger sentences. 

I can fully agree that textbooks do not help students whatsoever. Majority of the time in High School, I barely understood what the reading was trying to say. I would read the pages assigned and wait for the teacher to explain everything because I had little to no idea what was being discussed. This issue continues today because there are still a set of rules on how a person is supposed to read, and how it is supposed to be comprehended. I read very fast, and I pretend as if I am reading a script because it helps me understand better. Whereas someone else may read very fast, and monotoned but understand the text a lot more differently than I did. Teachers and sometimes even scholars need to understand that rhetoric and composition is still being studied today. More theories are being brought to light, new research is emerging and students are eager to learn about these new discoveries. As a writer, this insightful reading has just proved to me that English is not just teaching Gatsby to a bunch of 11th graders. So much dedication goes to understanding this broad subject. Traditions are changing, diversity helps comprehend everything so much better, and simply understanding that everyone has a different way of taking in information and formulating it. 

Rhetoric and Composition

I must admit that at the onset of reading Chapter Two of Rhetoric and Composition by Janice Lauer, I was a bit taken aback as to how naive I have been when it comes to the field of English writing studies. Straight away, I was unfamiliar with the terms multimodal” and “interdisciplinary.” However, it was quite interesting to read about the classification of that theory of English writing and how it is defined to understand the theory of rhetoric and composition in English studies.

What Rhetorical Strategies Are Used In Paragraph 31

As Lauer points out, scholars started teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in rhetoric and composition theory and research at their colleges and universities. At the same time, at professional conferences, sessions devoted to this scholarship increased. The question I had for myself was, why did I not have any knowledge of this specific terminology? Well, I discovered the answer is simple. Only recently (in the past thirty years) has “rhetoric and composition” become a full-fledged discipline within English studies, with its own professional conferences, journals and monograph series, and graduate degrees and undergraduate majors. Thus, it took me thirty-three years to return to college and embark upon my English writing studies journey. Make sense. Right!? Yes, indeed.

Most recently, Lauer notes rhetoric and composition scholars have revisited the history of rhetoric, attempting to update our understanding of the birth of the discipline and women’s and minorities’ roles in its long history. As a Black woman, I needed to dive a bit deeper into this portion of history. I learned that rhetorical studies, which rendered women invisible and silent for over 2,500 years—have recently begun to locate women on the rhetorical terrain, led by feminist scholars who want their rhetorical projects to do something to make rhetorical studies a more inclusive, expansive, democratic endeavor. The last thirty years uncovered women’s contributions to and participation deep within the rhetorical tradition (from Enheduanna, Sappho, and Aspasia to Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, and Zitkala Ša) as well as within the more recent rhetorical scene (Barbara Jordon, Audre Lorde, Hillary Clinton, Emma Gonzalez). Feminist scholars (of every stripe) continue to map out projects that rescue, recover, and reinscribe women, girls, and femmes onto our rhetorical consciousness (Glenn, 2023). To that end, now adding to the reason why I write: to educate, encourage and inspire in rhetoric and composition English studies.

Regarding studies of the composing process, the fundamental misconception which undermines so many of the best efforts in teaching writing: if students are trained how to recognize an example of good prose (“the rhetoric of the finished word”), educators are thought to have given them a basis on which to build writing abilities. In essence, Gordon Rohman and Albert O. Wlecke’s concept about prewriting claims that all educators have done, in fact, is to give students standards by which to judge the goodness or badness of their finished effort. In other words, they agree that educators haven’t really taught students how to make that effort. (106)”; a strong statement of finding worthy of repeating. It seems to me that educators need to reach far beyond the standards of the basis of teaching writing, such as a linear and reductive conception of the composing process that emerged in classrooms called “prewrite-write-rewrite.”

I have, too, learned that prewriting practices, which consist of keeping a journal to help me discover my contexts and points of urgency, engaging in meditation to transform an event into my personal experiences, and creating analogies to generate and organize aspects of any subject, are exceptionally helpful. Also, conventional pedagogies like freewriting, aka the double notebook, are great tools to enhance a student’s rhetoric and composition writing skills.

When it comes to a writer’s voice, with AI at the forefront of technological writing, students who reached self-actualization with an authentic voice by using a journal, meditation, and analogy, the traditional voice that Ken Macrorie questioned and condemned in academic writing he called “Engfish” will soon, as it proves will become obsolete. In contrast, where others associate voice with the classical concept of ethos or a writer’s character as it relates to a particular argument, rhetoric and composition’s notions of ethos, AI, in many current cases, is created to replicate a personal writing voice. Whereas a model like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Robot Kyle is “trained” on millions of words from across the Internet. (Chayka, 2023). Writing robots are meant to create efficiency, particularly for businesses that have to produce large amounts of iterative text, replacing a writer’s job performance and voice, i.e., style, voice, ethos, ethics, and affect. (Check out the incredible following story):

Lauer touches on grading as one of the thorniest issues in rhetoric and composition teaching, which brings to light the purpose of the widespread use of portfolios as a basis for assessing and grading a student’s body of written work. I will say I have often wondered how educators properly measure a student’s written assisgnment(s). She also depicts that throughout the years, the area of basic writing has developed its organization, conferences, and journals to handle college writing problems. And American Standard English in all student writing and affirmed “the students’ right to their patterns and varieties of language dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style.” In addition, the nature of second-language writing and the relationship between composition studies and the field of ESL writing being researched in 1974 are a refreshing validity to this reading before the social turn.

Although writing history has evolved to multiple levels, issues in civic rhetoric continue to attract the attention of many rhetoric and composition theorists today. Moreover, rising method conflicts in the field come as no surprise when theorists have often denounced the theory of another one’s ideas and notions. Astonishingly, one of the most controversial aspects of the work in rhetoric and composition, in the eyes of the public, is the field’s teaching of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Research and theory have discredited the full-frontal teaching of grammar, and some graduate programs have ignored historical inquiry on the subject matter of methods, etc. Who knew? Surely, I did not.

In closing of this reading, I agree with Lauer that each of the decades of work in rhetoric and composition has contributed to our understanding of written discourse and its teaching, opening hitherto unexplored aspects, building on previous work, critiquing or qualifying it, and sometimes challenging its underlying claims and arguments. Because without history, we have no basis to withstand present and future thought and methods theory pertaining to the conversation relating to rhetoric and composting in English writing studies.

Therefore, I concur that this overall piece of literature work in Chapter Two of Rhetoric and Composition provides exemplary historical evidence from the past to where we stand here and now to help students and others develop their powers of inquiry and communication in order to re-envision and enrich our everyday, civic, academic, and workplace lives. 

T-Money Show Episode 2!

Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the T-Money show. I am your host T-Money and today we have two very special guests. Please welcome rhetoric and composition!

Rhetoric and composition are two disciplines in the field of English which are multimodal and interdisciplinary. Multimodal means they usedifferent modes of inquiry (historical, theoretical, interpretive, critical, and observation-based)” (McComiskey 2). Interdisciplinary means “the field has always drawn on work in other disciplines (psychology, sociology, linguistics, literary theory, etc.) as part of its initiating of questions, arguments, and ways of reasoning” (McComiskey 2). 

Rhetoric sounds like a scary word, but can be defined as the art of making an argument. Argument doesn’t mean a fight, an argument is the point you are trying to make and rhetoric encapsulates all of the tools at your disposal. Rhetoric has a history as old as time. In Ancient Greece, rhetoric was taught to scholars as an important foundation such as math or science. As time went on, rhetoric eventually vanished from school curriculum. This led to schools teaching composition as the foundation for English classes. Composition is like baking a cake. You take an idea, plan it out, write about it, and you have a finished product. While this sounds like a good idea, it led to writing in schools becoming formulaic, stale, and devoid of the artist in their creation.

 This all changed in the 1960’s as a new decade brought new idea. “In 1964, Robert Gorrell and others convened a meeting at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) to discuss this new interest in rhetoric and its linkage with composition (Gorrell).” (McComiskey 3). This conference had a profound effect and soon others scholars were exploring rhetoric and composition in order to generate new ideas at English studies. They focused on things such as: “topics places for discovering arguments, status finding the type of issue in dispute, kairos the right or opportune moment for certain arguments” (McComiskey 4).

Following this, rhetoric started to be taken more seriously as a discipline. 

This is the part where things start to get good. In the 1960’s and 70’s rhetoric scholars starting to embrace rebellion. They (rightfully) argued that writing was being taught as a product in schools with the end result being a letter grade. Rhetoric scholars said that writing should be looked at as a process from when someone has an idea all the way to the finished work. There are many steps in the writing process and they more important to learn than how to write a paper that gets an A everytime. Janet Emig identified 2 important parts of the early writing process called prewriting and planning. Prewriting can be anything that helps start your creative process and planning is about getting your ideas in order before you start your draft.

An important part of rhetoric is considering your audience. I believe if we all look back on our education, we can see that most of the time our audience was our teacher. This is all well and good when you are writing something like a research paper, but what happens when you are writing a creative work? For example, I have a poem called “Kill the Boomers. Save the Millennials.” The title is poking fun at the fact that headlines claim millennials have killed everything. The poem talks about how the world is unfavorable to millennials and we are struggling to survive. It talks about how boomers had a lot more advantages then we had and they are living well. The poem talks about getting rid of the boomers so the millennials can ensure a future for our generation.

When I perform it to people my age, they love it. They cheer and repeat the kill the boomers line. What do you think happens when I perform it in front of boomers? They hate it! Imagine if I turned that poem in for a school assignment, most teachers would say it’s garbage. And I would never write that poem for a school assignment because I know that it would not get an A. How can academic writing prepare us for the real world? In my poems, I go against the grain of what poetry should be because I know my audience does not want to hear poetry that fits into a neat little box and plays by the rules.

Another thing that my “Kill the Boomers. Save the Millennials.” poem does is speak to the current times. Just like Bob Dylan said “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. This is a way to use rhetoric to convey an argument. A key feature of rhetoric is that it speaks to issues in society. “In the 1980s, a rhizomatic spread of theory, research, and new pedagogy occurred, called by some the “social turn.”” (McComiskey 14). This idea brought writing forward as something that was shaped by society and could be used as an agent of change. I got the idea from my poem as a direct result of the way society was for the boomers and the way society is for the millennials. I channeled the frustrations of an entire generation.

On paper, my poem isn’t all that impressive. But when performed live, it is a sight to see. It resonates so strongly with a millennial audience. The poem was written to be performed. It was written to inspire my generation to come up with ideas on how to change our shitty situation. In order to understand rhetoric as an agent of change, all we have to do is look at politics. There are people who become President who are fucking awful. Look at Trump. How could anyone vote for him? He was a master at rhetoric. He stoked the fires of hate and had the people in the palm of his hand. He wasn’t afraid to say the hateful racist things that many people in America were thinking. He used carefully coded messages to instill violent racist ideologies in his followers.

On the other side of the coin, you have people like Obama who used the power of rhetoric for good. Being the 1st Black President of America is no easy feat. Obama used powerful rhetoric that hasn’t been seen since the days of Martin Luther King. His message of hope and social change resonated with so many people. He inspired America to do the impossible through carefully crafted rhetoric.

There is much more to talk about in the field of rhetoric and composition. But we are out of time today on the T-Money show. We’ll see you next week.

Works Cited (Not properly formatted, I know >_<)

English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). CHAPTER TWO (Pp. 106-136). Rhetoric and Composition. JANICE M. LAUER Purdue University

Rhetoric and Composition: A Vital Component of English Studies

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

In week 2 of Writing Theory and Practice, we are immersing ourselves in the field of rhetoric and composition in Chapter 2 of English Studies, An Introduction to the Disciplines by Janice M. Lauer. Janice M. Lauer, a scholar renowned for her contributions to the study of language and persuasion, has left a mark on the way we think about English studies and the disciplines of rhetoric. 

This chapter introduces how rhetoric and composition developed within English Studies since its reemergence in the 1960s. Lauer mentioned,

“What these students often don’t realize is that English also encompasses the discipline of rhetoric and composition, the teaching and study of writing and rhetoric in context.”

But only recently, in the past 30 years, has rhetoric and composition become a full-fledged discipline within English Studies. While reading through the chapter, I had a profound moment when I realized the impact of rhetoric and composition in English Studies on our lives today. 

Janice M. Lauer’s viewpoint is undeniably valid as she contends, What have been the impacts of these expansions, shifts, and issues? I would maintain that each of the decades of work in rhetoric and composition has contributed to our understanding of written discourse and its teaching, opening hitherto unexplored aspects, building on previous work, critiquing or qualifying it, and sometimes challenging its underlying claims and arguments. She believes this is the normal work of a healthy discipline.

This perspective highlights the continuous evolution and growth within the field of rhetoric and composition in English Studies. Lauer underscores how each era of study and exploration adds value by expanding the scope of knowledge, drawing on the achievements of the past, and offering critical insights that refine the discipline in the present day.

The Journey Rhetoric & Composition

Imagine my shock when one of the opening lines of this chapter pinpointed my experience in joining this field (on the third page!).

if students decide to major or even to do graduate work in English, they assume they will be studying literature. What these students often do not realize is that “English” also encompasses the discipline of rhetoric and composition

I became an English major for my love of literature: the classics, the epic poems, the satirical essays, and honestly the Victorian era as a whole. Later realizing that the inner workings of the writing field are so vast and dynamic, and that I would have to understand these inner workings if I were to ever join the league of giants I studied. Let me start by stating that I have no real desire to join the pedagogical field. However, learning the history and continuing progression of Rhetoric & Composition can only benefit my own journey as a writer.

Many of the topics in this chapter are not new to me due to a course I took last semester, Writing Pedagogies with Dr. Friend. A course I highly recommend to anyone wishing to extend their knowledge of the historical traditions of writing. Basically, imagine deep diving into this chapter and having your world view of teaching writing turned on its head. It was like cracking an egg on to a skillet slowly cooking it into breakfast, adding salt and pepper as you go along. That being said I am by no mean an expert in this, and I clearly understand that this is an ever growing and complicated field

I digress…
One part of this chapter that stood out to me was when the author quoted a document published by the CCCC (the Conference on College Composition and Communication) on the legitimate use of social dialects in students. The document rejected the requirement of a “single American Standard English in all student writing and affirmed the students’ right to their own patterns and varieties of language the dialects of their nurture or whatever dialects in which they find their own identity and style”. Having such a standard would rip away the voices of all writers. Identity is something so inherent in writing that (I believe) its impossible to detach. Being a poet I see it in each line I write, my experiences poured onto lines that I’ve carve on to paper, my strife’s, my pain, my joy all that originate from who I am, who I’ve become. This is why I’m so against the formalistic approaches. Why does it matter if my paper has a comma splice? Does that make the argument null? It reminded of an article that Richard Fulkerson wrote an article in 79′ on the four philosophies of writing. He wrote “the most common type of formalist value theory is a grammatical one: good writing is “correct” writing at the sentence level” (344). The use “correct” here bothered me, and is in line with this notion of an “American Standard English”. I wont get into on this blog post but if anyone wants to dip their toe, be my guest.

Anyways, my last thoughts on this week’s reading is my awe in learning that “only in the past thirty years has “rhetoric and composition ” become a full-fledged discipline within English studies”. I’m glad Janice M. Lauer started this chapter with this fact. It gave me some hope knowing that this discipline is still in constant change and growth. Maybe some of my peers or professors will have a hand in improving it.

It’s Time to Dig Deeper

This week’s reading by Janice M. Lauer discusses how researchers realized that the rhetorical model offers a better way to teach and learn writing. To do this, it focuses on how these researchers have, since the 1960s, continued to work hard to grow the field and keep offering up new and more informed theories that could make everyone a stellar writer. But Lauer recognizes the fact that 21st century students are not always experiencing the benefits of that research: “[The EDNA model] persists even though scholars…have exposed the inadequacy of this model and despite the fact that scholars…have developed more rhetorically based and relevant conceptions of genre” (20). If a deeper understanding of the best way to teach writing has been available for decades, why hasn’t it informed instruction in every writing classroom? In the reading, Lauer points to the teachers as the reason.

Teachers are, according to Lauer, unwilling to change, even if change is in the best interest of the students. She mentions that teachers continue to use the EDNA model in their classrooms despite its having been “theoretically repudiated” (Lauer 10). Although she states that “the reasons for this intransigence are multiple,” the majority of her reasons fault teachers (Lauer 10). She suggests that teachers’ education has not left them prepared for the task, stating that “a huge percentage of composition teachers are unfamiliar with the…work on modes and genres because they have not been educated in the field of rhetoric and composition” (Lauer 10). She also lays the blame on teachers for refusing to leave their comfort zones, choosing instead to continue implementing “theoretically repudiated” “modes of discourse” (Lauer 10). Lauer makes it appear as though the researchers she holds in such high regard have offered up their valuable findings to teachers who have not implemented them because they neither engage in professional development nor show a regard for what’s best for their students, preferring to “remain comfortable” (10).

Successful research, though, however enlightening, does not necessarily consider practical application. The studies to which Lauer refers in this chapter are just that–studies. Studies, by their very nature, implement controls, minimize variables, and cannot address every last item that might influence the teaching and learning that goes on in a classroom. Teachers’ lessons are not governed by theory alone, but must survive the scrutiny of supervisors, administrators, and their school boards. Teachers must consider the quality and availability of their materials, the need for differentiation, and the time constraints both for crafting the lesson and delivering it, among many other things. Even the most intelligent, creative, motivated, and open-minded teacher can find it challenging to implement these theories in a school structure that was not designed to accommodate them.

Lauer mentions that the decades of work in rhetoric and composition have “contributed to our understanding of written discourse and its teaching, opening hitherto unexplored aspects, building on previous work, critiquing or qualifying it, and sometimes challenging its underlying claims and arguments” (24). Her focus is on how researchers have increased their own understanding, found new aspects for themselves to explore, and spent time revisiting their own work–none of these accomplishments involves seeking real-life solutions that will make the school structure a more inhabitable space for the theories that have been developed. The most impressive theory won’t do any good if it is never implemented. I humbly submit that the researchers mentioned here should dig much deeper to find out why their theories have not been more widely adopted; the real work is not simply identifying that a change is needed, but figuring out how to effect that change.

Work Cited:

Lauer, Janice M. “Rhetoric and Composition.” English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s), edited by Bruce McComisky, National Council of Teachers of English, 2006, 106-136.